• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents Simple and compound forms

The rules for the formation of complex cardinal numerals are themselves rather complex and often leave room for several alternative options. Three processes may be involved; see also Booij (2010:ch.8). The first is derivation, that is, cases in which the complex form is derived by means of a bound morpheme. This is mainly the case with the formation of those numerals from 20 to 90 that correspond to multiples of 10; two examples are given in (2a). The second process seems to involve compounding, and forms complex cardinal numerals from simpler ones that can occur independently. It should be noted, however, that at least some of these complex forms may plausibly be analyzed as phrases, which is also reflected in the orthographical rules, which require some of these complex numerals to be written as one word, but others as separate words; some examples are given in (2b). Finally, complex numerals can be formed by means of coordination with en'and/plus', as in (2c). Although this process results in formations that are phrase-like, the orthographic rules require a complex form to be written as a single word if it refers to a number below 100, which may be related to the fact that the element en must be obligatorily realized in such cases. The complex numerals above 100, on the other hand, must be written as separate words, which may be related to the fact that the conjunction en is optional in these cases.

Example 2
a. Derivation: vijf-tig (50), zes-tig (60)
b. Compounding: vijf-tien (15), vijf-honderd (500), zes miljoen (6,000,000)
c. Coordination: vijfenvijftig (55), honderd (en) vijf (105)

      Example (3) provides the cardinal numerals from 0 to 19. The numerals corresponding to 0 to 12 (given in small caps) are all base forms. The remaining numerals are compound-like with the numeral tien acting as the second member of the compound. The first member is one of the numerals corresponding to 5 to 9, or one of the irregular bound morphemes der- and veer-, which also feature in dertig'thirty' and veertig'forty' (these irregular forms are given in italics).

Example 3
The numerals 0 to 19
0 nul 10 tien
1 één 11 elf
2 twee 12 twaalf
3 drie 13 der-tien
4 vier 14 veer-tien
5 vijf 15 vijf-tien
6 zes 16 zes-tien
7 zeven 17 zeven-tien
8 acht 18 acht-tien
9 negen 19 negen-tien

Example (4) shows that the numerals corresponding to the multiples of 10 from 20 to 90 all feature the bound morpheme -tig. Most of these forms are regular derivations from the simple numerals in Example (3), but there are also less regular formations. The first is twintig'twenty', in which the morpheme -tig is attached to the form twin-, which does not appear elsewhere in the numeral system. Other more or lesss irregular forms are dertig'thirty' and veertig'forty', which are derived from the bound morphemes der- and veer-, which also appear in dertien'thirteen' and veertien'fourteen'. Finally, there is tachtig'eighty' where the first morpheme features a /t/ in the onset which is not found in the base form acht'eight'. The remaining numbers between 20 and 100 are phrase-like, and are built up by means of coordination of one of the numerals from 1 to 9 and one of the forms in the first column in example (4) by means of the conjunction-like element en. As was mentioned above, these combinations are written as single words; the orthographical system apparently treats these combinations as compounds employing the “binding” morpheme -en-. Some examples are given in the second and third columns of the table in (4).

Example 4
Numerals from 20 to 100
20 twin-tig 21 éénentwintig 29 negenentwintig
30 der-tig 31 éénendertig 39 negenendertig
40 veer-tig 41 éénenveertig 49 negenenveertig
50 vijf-tig 51 éénenvijftig 59 negenenvijftig
60 zes-tig 61 éénenzestig 69 negenenzestig
70 zeven-tig 71 éénenzeventig 79 negenenzeventig
80 tacht-ig 81 éénentachtig 89 negenentachtig
90 negen-tig 91 éénennegentig 99 negenennegentig

The first column of table (5) gives the names of the numerals that correspond to 10 to the power of 2, 3, 6, 9 and 12. Names for larger numbers do exist, but these are normally not found in colloquial speech. Numerals referring to multiples of these numbers are again compound-like and are normally formed by placing one of the numerals between 0 and 999 in front of the numeral in the first column of table (5). In the second and third column some examples are given.

Example 5
Higher numerals (round figures)
102 honderd 2∙102 tweehonderd 12∙102 twaalfhonderd
103 duizend 2∙103 tweeduizend 500∙103 vijfhonderdduizend
106 miljoen 2∙106 twee miljoen 500∙106 vijfhonderd miljoen
109 miljard 2∙109 twee miljard 500∙109 vijfhonderd miljard
1012 biljoen 2∙1012 twee biljoen 500∙1012 vijfhonderd biljoen

Four additional remarks on the higher cardinal numerals in Example (5) are in order.

[+]  I.  Numerals corresponding to the multiples of 100 between 1,000 and 10,000

The majority of the numerals corresponding to the multiples of 100 between 1,000 and 10,000 can be realized in more than one ways. One option is to use a compound which takes - honderd as its second member: it seems that in speech this is the only option for the multiples of 100 between 1100 and 2000.

Example 6
a. elfhonderd
f. zestienhonderd
b. twaalfhonderd
g. zeventienhonderd
c. dertienhonderd
h. achttienhonderd
d. veertienhonderd
i. negentienhonderd
e. vijftienhonderd

An alternative form is regularly used for multiples of 100 between 2,000 and 10,000, so that the regular forms in the primeless examples of (7) alternate with the forms in the primed examples.

Example 7
a. vijfentwintighonderd
a'. tweeduizend vijfhonderd
b. drieënveertighonderd
b'. vierduizend driehonderd
c. vierentachtighonderd
c'. achtduizend vierhonderd
d. tweeënnegentighonderd
d'. negenduizend tweehonderd

This does not hold, at least not in colloquial speech, for the numbers 2100, 3100, etc. These numbers are normally expressed by means of the regular compound with – honderd; using the forms in the primed examples of (8) is possible provided that the numeral één is included but it feels somewhat emphatic and artificial.

Example 8
a. éénentwintighonderd
a'. tweeduizend *(één) honderd
b. éénendertighonderd
b'. drieduizend *(één) honderd
c. éénenveertighonderd
c'. vierduizend *(één) honderd

Compound forms with - honderd are never used for the multiples of 1000 in (9a-d). The same thing holds for numbers over 10,000. This is illustrated in (9e).

Example 9
a. duizend
a'. * tienhonderd
b. tweeduizend
b'. * twintighonderd
c. drieduizend
c'. * dertighonderd
d. tienduizend
d'. * honderdhonderd
e. tienduizend vijfhonderd
e'. * honderdenvijfhonderd
[+]  II.  Compound numerals of which the first part exceeds 1000

Occasionally, the first part of a compound-like form is a numeral higher than 1000, as in the primeless examples of (10). In these cases speakers tend to use yet another way of expressing the number, examples of which are given in the primed examples. This option is restricted to fairly round figures; for other cases see the examples in (13) below.

Example 10
a. twaalfhonderd duizend
  twelve hundred thousand
a'. één komma twee miljoen
  one comma two million
b. twaalfhonderd miljoen
  twelve hundred million
b'. één komma twee miljard
  one comma two billion
c. twaalfhonderd biljoen
  twelve hundred billion
c'. één komma twee biljoen
  one comma two quadrillion

Of course, this way of expressing the numerals in (10) is related to the fact that in Dutch the comma is used to divide a whole number from a decimal portion instead of the period (as in English). Thus, één komma twee miljoen corresponds to one point two million in English.

[+]  III.  Numerals preceded by an article and/or (ander-)half

The second and third columns of the table in (5) show that the orthographic conventions are somewhat complex: the compound-like forms derived from honderd'hundred' and duizend are treated as single words, whereas the complex forms based on miljoen, miljard and biljoen are written as two separate words. This may be related to the fact that the latter forms seem to have noun-like properties that are missing, or at least less prominent, in the case of honderd and duizend. Two of these properties are the ability to be preceded by the indefinite article een'a' and the ability of taking a modifier like half'half' or kwart'quarter'; this is shown in the primeless and singly-primed examples in (11). Still there is need for some caution: the doubly-primed examples show that all forms allow plural formation, which is also a nominal property, and a Google search revealed that the forms marked with a star do occur on the internet, especially with nouns indicating a measure unit like euro or kilometer.

Example 11
a. # een honderd boeken
  a hundred books
a'. * een half honderd boeken
  a half hundred books
a''. honderden boeken
  hundreds [of] books
b. # een duizend boeken
  a thousand books
b'. * een half duizend boeken
  a half thousand books
b''. duizenden boeken
  thousands [of] books
c. een miljoen boeken
  a million books
c'. een half miljoen boeken
  a half million books
c''. miljoenen boeken
  millions [of] books
d. een miljard boeken
  a billion books
d'. een half miljard boeken
  a half billion books
d''. miljarden boeken
  billions [of] books
e. een biljoen boeken
  a quadrillion books
e'. een half biljoen boeken
  a half quadrillion books
e''. biljoenen boeken
  quadrillions [of] books

The examples in (11a&b) are unacceptable on the intended reading but marked with a number sign because they are possible with an approximate reading “about a hundred/thousand books”. This reading is not relevant here, since in that case we are dealing with one of the spurious uses of the indefinite article; cf. Section, sub II. Note further that example (11b') involving duizend, contrasts sharply with examples like (12b&b'), which offers a third option in addition the (a)-examples in (7); this contrast does not show up in the case of honderd.

Example 12
a. * anderhalf honderd boeken
  one.and.a.half  hundred  books
a'. * tweeëneenhalf honderd boeken
  two.and.a.half hundred books
b. (?) anderhalf duizend boeken
  one.and.a.half  thousand  books
b'. tweeëneenhalf duizend boeken
  two.and.a.half thousand books
c. anderhalf miljoen boeken
  one.and.a.half  million  books
c'. tweeëneenhalf miljoen boeken
  two.and.a.half million books
d. anderhalf miljard boeken
  one.and.a.half  billion  books
d'. tweeëneenhalf miljard boeken
  two.and.a.half billion books
e. anderhalf biljoen boeken
  one.and.a.half  quadrillion  books
e'. tweeëneenhalf biljoen boeken
  two.and.a.half quadrillion books
[+]  IV.  The conjunction en'and'

The remaining numerals are phrase-like in nature. The several subparts of the numeral are generally optionally conjoined by means of the conjunction en. Some examples are given in (13). Note that, in contrast to honderd and duizend, the elements miljoen and miljard are obligatorily preceded by the numeral één.

Example 13
a. honderd (en) vierentwintig
  hundred  and  twenty.four
b. duizend (en) vierentwintig
  thousand  and  twenty.four
c. één miljoen (en) tweeduizend (en) vierentwintig
  one million  and  two.thousand  and  twenty.four
d. één miljard (en) drie miljoen (en) tweeduizend (en) vierentwintig
  one billion  and  three million  and  two.thousand  and  twenty.four
  • Booij, Geert2010Construction morphologyOxford/New YorkOxford University Press
Suggestions for further reading ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
This topic is the result of an automatic conversion from Word and may therefore contain errors.
A free Open Access publication of the corresponding volumes of the Syntax of Dutch is available at OAPEN.org.